NAYPYITAW, Myanmar—Tourists like Petter Sørli visit the capital of what was once Burma to seek what isn’t there.
“Have you seen the 20-lane highway?” said the 28-year-old Norwegian computer-systems expert, visiting with his brother. “We’ve seen the 18-lane one” on which, they were delighted to find, there were no vehicles. “But I heard there’s an even bigger one with absolutely no traffic.”
There is, indeed, a 20-lane thoroughfare outside Naypyitaw’s parliament complex. On a recent day, the street was occupied by no one other than a worker in a wide-brimmed hat repainting a curb.
The Sørli brothers wanted to witness the capital’s eerie emptiness, and they found it everywhere. There were few other visitors at the massive Buddhist pagoda, Mr. Sørli said, and none in the city’s touted gem museum, where “the lights were turned on as we went around.”
Naypyitaw (pronounced nay-pee-doh) is the city left behind, a testament to Myanmar’s bumpy road toward reintegrating with the world under a new government. It inherited the old military regime’s barren capital and must now figure out what to do with it.
Since the nation began opening to the world five years ago, visitors have streamed to places like Yangon and Mandalay, cities steeped in culture with their historic temples and busy markets. Those sites have gained new attention since the democratically elected government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s party took over this year.